Hearts Unbroken

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Lou starts senior year feeling protective of her little brother, Hughie, an incoming... read more

Lou starts senior year feeling protective of her little brother, Hughie, an incoming freshman, but Hughie fits right in among theater kids. Lou joins the school paper, and soon is crushing on a fellow journalist, Lebanese American Joey. Burned by her last boyfriend’s unexpected racism, she is hesitant to tell Joey that she is Muscogee Creek, even after it’s clear he likes her, too. Meanwhile, inclusive casting of The Wizard of Oz at their predominantly white suburban Kansas high school has a parent group up in arms: The actor playing Dorothy is Black, the Scarecrow is a Latinx student, and Hughie is the Tin Man. The administration, and staff on the paper, face pressure to decry the play, while anonymous racial slurs are sent to the three actors. Racism and school politics, social relationships and romance converge in this lively, illuminating novel. Lou is appealing and fallible, self-absorbed and genuinely caring; her relationships, with Joey and with extended family members and friends, are wonderfully realized. Coming to terms with her anger at what is happening, and her own missteps (including mis-assumptions about Joey because of his Arab heritage, and blindness to her middle-class privilege), Lou discovers Hughie is torn about his role after reading Oz author L. Frank Baum’s hateful writings about Native peoples in a story that explores difficult truths and hard decisions even as it entertains. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2019

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